Florida Jury Evaluates Role of Tobacco Company in Cancer Patient’s Death

A Florida Jury began deliberation on Wednesday to determine whether R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. played a part in the death of a long-time smoker and lung cancer patient, Lillian Kaplan.

Todd McPharlin, who represents Kaplan’s family, implored jurors to award up to $8 million along with punitive damages, which would set into motion a second trial phase.

Kaplan, who died from lung cancer at age 84 in 2012, smoked two packs of cigarettes every day for 50 years. Now, jurors will determine whether R.J. Reynolds hid the dangers of smoking from Kaplan.

McPharlin said, “[R.J. Reynolds] actually went out there and said ‘There’s nothing wrong with our product.’”

Although Kaplan tried to quit smoking several times in the 1960s, she was never able to go more than a week and a half without smoking until 1994, when she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In 2012, Kaplan was diagnosed with lung cancer after suffering a stroke. Later that year, she died.

R.J. Reynolds Claims Kaplan “Lived a Long Life”

In response to the claims of Kaplan’s family, R.J. Reynolds’ lawyer made two claims: That the statute of limitations bars Kaplan’s claims and secondly, that Kaplan had a long life, outliving all of her siblings.

According to R.J. Reynolds, Kaplan should have identified the signs of COPD before 1990 because her husband died of the same disease.

In response, McPharlin said, “The fact that she was 84 means she lived long enough and it doesn’t matter that [R.J. Reynolds] took her life?”

One of Thousands of Tobacco Cases Arising From Engle Class Action

Kaplan’s case is one of thousands emerging after the landmark Engle class action lawsuit against tobacco companies. Although the Florida Supreme Court decertified the $145 billion verdict, it allowed up to 700,000 people to file individual suits, pursuing compensation under the presumption that smoking cigarettes can lead to certain diseases, and that tobacco companies failed to disclose this information to consumers.

Read more about this case from Law360 here.

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